Authors: Engr. Rehan Saeed & Sumeera Asghar Roy
Recently, the head of the expert’s team made a big claim, that Pakistan could be a world-leading olive producer. After learning and research, we concluded that it would take decades to reach, establish, and register in the top ten olive producing countries, with a lot of precise efforts and smart work. There has been an increasing trend of olive cultivation in Pakistan, in the past ten years following the import of a hundred thousand olive seedlings from the renowned olive producing countries, i.e., Turkey, Spain, and Italy. The ultimate goal is to cultivate olives for commercial purposes. Pakistan’s climate is conducive for their cultivation, as they grow fast where they find clement winter following long hot summer. Some verities are hard enough to be grown in harsh conditions.
It is being cultivated in a limited capacity in different areas of Pakistan, especially the Pothohar region has been given the title of the “Olive Valley” because the climate of Chakwal and surroundings resembles those that are considered most suitable for the cultivation of olive. Farmers were provided free plants and subsidies to grow olive on the commercial level. It takes five years for a seedling to bear fruits on its branches, provided that all of its requirements are met. However, bear in mind that it’s perfectly normal for olive trees to produce fruit only every other year or to produce alternating heavy and light crops from year to year. The durability of an olive tree is beyond our expectations.
Still, one should be wise enough to grow them in spring, making it certain that they are grown in the sunny environment under sheds when the frost season has been given farewell because frost is unbearable for them. Sandy soil is not healthy for the cultivation of olive owing to have low water holding capacity. Heavy clay soil is also not compatible as it reduces sufficient aeration and also does not drain well. Fine-textured soils, which may be between sand and clay, are appropriate for olives. Trees can grow in well moderate acid and basic soils containing pH greater than five and less than nine. Higher or lower than the pH above may lead to wilting because such kind of basic or sodic soil may cause damage roots by disturbing water penetration, resulting in the killing of roots.
Pakistan to target neighboring markets
The highest producers of olive are Spain, Turkey, Greece, Morocco, and Italy. The highest consumer of olive oil in Greece. Spain is still the world’s largest olive oil producer, with more than half of world production and far from the second producer, Italy. In Europe, 78% of the world’s olive oil is produced. The producing countries have always been the biggest consumers of olive oil, although consumption in Asia, the United States, and Australia is also increasing. Pakistan should also focus on the nearest biggest market, China.
Pakistan has ten million acres suitable for cultivation and this is far more than Spain, which is the largest olive oil producer. Pakistan has been dependent on olive producer countries, which costs Pakistan 2 billion dollar per year but producing olive on its native lands may help Pakistan not only fulfill its own need but it also even export it to other countries because the quality of olive oil produced in Pakistan has proved far better than that of oil produced in Italy and Spain. Pakistan has huge suitable land for the cultivation of oil. Pakistan may even surpass Spain in production as it produces 57% of olive produced globally.
Comparison is given in below graph with top olive producing countries and the situation of Pakistan.
Improvements should be made before cultivation
Pakistanis are eager to cultivate olive because existing crops are not productive in those barren lands, where olive can easily be grown owing to its drought-tolerant nature. The production of olive is not that impressive at all in Pakistan, but by 2027, Pakistan wants to produce 16,000 tons. Much of the land of Balochistan and KPK is water-stressed due to low rainfall. The highest appetite for the cultivation of olive has been found in Bajaur, followed by Kurram, and North Waziristan.
Improvements’ in the production environment, development of entrepreneur centers in villages, employment generation, improvement in livelihood, and value-addition should be at the highest priority by all stakeholders. Otherwise, history will repeat itself as in 2015 only 1 percent of plants out of 5.5 million, were survived due to poor management. In Balochistan, the potential areas found suitable for olive cultivation are Zhob, Khuzdar, Loralai, KilaSaifullah, and Musa Khel. In uneven lands of KPK and Balochistan, the high precision drip irrigation system will be installed on 400 acres of land for irrigation purposes.
Read more: Italy to seek olive production in Sindh
Pakistan must encourage small farmers, cultivators, and big landholders to cultivate olive on a large scale, and subsidies should also be given, especially to small landholders and helping in the refinery. Currently, Chakwal is helping farmers in the refining process free of cost, which is a remarkable initiative. Instead of only temperature zoning, Pakistan should also do the soil survey, in order to start from the best and most feasible areas in order to further boost the production of olive and to avoid any losses. With ample land, and temperature zones, it is also inevitable for Pakistan to do proper planning, management and fully utilize its assets and machinery; in order to reckon their position in the top ten producers’ of olive. Pakistan should struggle to implement all the options mentioned above in letter and high spirit to enter into the global market of olive production.
The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.